Parenthood is the hardest role on the planet, with moms and dads constantly on-call and their children prone to backtalk and tantrums. But it’s the most rewarding and important one too. And that means we must try to do the best we can no matter how chaotic it gets. Yes, even if we run out of wine.
Naturally, this is easier said than done, but it’s not impossible to improve your parenting game and learn how to be a better parent. In fact, minor things can make a major difference, including the following:
1. Do as You Say
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of parenthood is holding ourselves to the same standards we hold our children; this is probably why the whole idea of “because I said so” was born. We may constantly tell our kids to put their cereal bowl in the dishwasher and then leave our own dishes idling on the counter.
But our kids are watching, stalking really, and our actions carry as much weight as our words, maybe even more. Babies to toddlers to teenagers each learn from observation; thus, make sure they’re observing you walking your talk and perpetuating integrity.
2. Cancel Comparisons and Labels
It’s natural to compare your child to other children, as moms and dads want to know that their son or daughter is developing normally. But brussels sprouts are natural too…..and they’re not any easier to swallow. Parents who compare their child typically fail to see the bigger picture, noticing that their kid lacks verbal skills but forgetting that they’re already jumping and climbing with ease. Not only that, but children are individuals and designed to develop at different rates.
Labels are equally problematic, and terms like “fussy eater” may even encourage your child to live up to their moniker. Labeling a child may affect their siblings too. For example, if you call a child who reads “my little brainiac,” their sister or brother may believe that they’re not as smart. And they may phone it in on academics as a result.
3. Let them Learn the Hard Way
Parents instinctively want to swoop in and help their children, saving them from embarrassment or remorse. But kids who are never allowed to make mistakes are also kids who never learn. When parents step back and give children a chance to explore trial and error, they show them cause and effect and teach them about consequences. For example, a child who decides to leave their new toy out in the rain will learn that their failure to take care of things ruins those things. This shows them not to engage in this behavior in the future. It’s also emotionally healthy to allow children to experience disappointment; after all, life isn’t fair and not everything is always coming up roses.
4. Find the “Why” Behind Bad Behavior
People, whether they’re adults or children, rarely engage in bad behavior merely for the thrill of it. Kids, especially, break rules, fight back, and resist for a reason. Most often, it’s because they don’t yet know how to regulate their emotions. It’s your job to teach them, not only through appropriate discipline but conversations that consider your child’s feelings. For example, if your son hit your daughter because your daughter stole his cookie, acknowledge that it’s unfair and hurtful when people take our things. Then speak to him about how he could have handled the situation differently (i.e., getting an adult to help).
5. Point out the Good
It’s human to notice when things go wrong more than when things go right and parenthood is no exception to this inclination. Many moms and dads probably find themselves hollering at their kids to put their toys away or clean their rooms, but they might forget to point out the good. Whenever your child does their homework or folds their clothes without you asking, make sure to note it vocally. Praising good behavior encourages that good behavior. Ideally, you should find something every day to compliment.
6. Set Boundaries and Foster Consistency
Setting boundaries sets expectations and encourages your children to engage in positive choices. You might have strict boundaries around things like violence (with biting or hitting strictly forbidden) and more flexible boundaries around bedtime (maybe they can stay up late on weekends but require an earlier turn-in on school nights).
When kids cross these boundaries, they must have consequences (or else they have no reason to respect those boundaries). Whatever system you develop – one warning followed by the consequence, for instance – make sure you stick to it consistently.
7. Express Your Feelings
Loving a child is different than spoiling them. Genuine affection and adoration should never be replaced with material items like video games or electric motorcycles. There are several ways you can show your child you love them, such as hugging or kissing, setting time aside to speak to them, playing with them, and listening to them when they talk about something they find important (even if it’s something silly like Power Rangers). Love fosters the parent/child bond, increases self-worth, and encourages resilience.
8. Be Your Child’s Lighthouse
Life is hard, even for kids, and all children need a safe haven where they can turn: Be your child’s lighthouse in the middle of a raging storm. Repeatedly tell them that you’ll be there for them, that you believe in them, and that you love them. Kids who know that their mom and dad have their backs are more likely to have stronger emotional development, better social skills, and less struggles with mental health.
9. Take Care of You
It’s repeatedly said in the world of self-care that people must put their oxygen masks on first; you can’t fill the cup of another if your cup is empty. Parents, especially, should set aside space to engage in “Me-Time”, whether this is through yoga, massage, or happy hours with friends. Small things like going to bed at a decent hour, eating fruits and vegetables, and, sadly, cutting back on coffee can make a difference in a mom and dad’s ability to stay centered, present, and calm even when their child has painted the kitchen walls with an entire can of chocolate icing.
The above points help you become a better parent, one who knows when they’ve made mistakes and acts to remedy their shortcomings. The effort pays off, as better parents tend to have more secure and emotionally well-rounded children. Still, refrain from trying to be flawless – as all moms and dads are aware, the perfect parent is nothing more than a mythical creature.
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